November’s waning sun is nature’s invitation to rev up our blood circulation. Vigorous, unrestricted blood flow is one of the keys to not only staying comfortably warm as the temperatures drop, but also maintaining our health and beauty as we age. Here are five tips that are guaranteed to pep up your anti-aging regimen this fall.
Pick up the pace: When chilly autumn winds nip our ears, we’re naturally inclined to walk faster. Be mindful of that tendency and fully indulge it every chance you get. Whether you’re outdoors enjoying the vivid fall scenery or shopping inside the mall, maintain proper walking form. Stand tall with your chest high and your shoulders relaxed, push off your toes, and focus on making your steps as quick as possible. Avoid getting to the point where you become totally out of breath. Compared to strolling, fast walking stimulates greater blood flow, supplying your cells with more of the oxygen and nutrients they need to repair free radical damage. With a small adjustment to a simple routine activity, you can reap a host of outsized rewards from fewer wrinkles and a slimmer body to a reduced risk of heart disease and dementia.
Spice up your diet: Cook a big pot of red beans with chili powder, or add dried chili flakes, cayenne pepper, or Hungarian paprika to a steaming-hot stew of fall root vegetables. These spicy cool-weather meals raise the rate of blood flow to the skin while warming our stomachs and waking up tired taste buds. With their generous supply of vitamins A and C, hot peppers also contribute to the long-term health of our circulatory system by strengthening blood vessels.
Perk up your complexion the Eastern European way: Circulatory stimulation is the core skin repair mechanism employed in classic Eastern European anti-aging treatments. One the most powerful of these treatments, the organic peel, activates this mechanism with a dose of fiery Hungarian paprika. (To learn more about the benefits of fruit acid peels, read my post on Three Fall Skincare Fundamentals. A traditional European facial that incorporates facial massage will also help optimize blood flow to the deeper layers of the skin where new collagen and epidermal cells form.
Go heavy on the garlic: Garlic improves circulation by dilating blood vessels and hindering the formation of artery-clogging cholesterol plaques. The latest research suggests that we can help fend off the diseases of aging by adding two to five cloves of garlic a day to our diet. With simple yet intensely flavorful menu choices from spaghetti with garlic sautéed in olive oil to hummus and roasted garlic spread, people who enjoy Mediterranean-style foods will find it delightfully easy to stick to this health habit. Be sure to let garlic cloves sit for about 15 minutes after crushing or chopping to maximize the potency of the healthful compounds they contain. (Worried about garlic breath? Try chewing a few fennel seeds after a garlicky meal to help remove the pungent odor.)
Pump up your nitric oxide levels: Raising the levels of nitric oxide in our bloodstream stimulates circulation by expanding and relaxing blood vessel walls. A 2014 study by Italian scientists confirmed that we can achieve this effect by eating dark chocolate. This beneficial impact on blood flow is one of the reasons my book Timeless Woman recommends a small square of dark chocolate when your craving for a super-rich treat becomes irresistible. Chocolate with a cocoa content of 70 to 85 percent will give you the most bang for the least amount of sugar and calories. Or if you want to skip those dietary downsides entirely, you can take another page from my book of seasonal strategies.
Among my recommendations for a fall health and beauty routine is regular meditation sessions, a practice that, according to a cardiologist quoted in a recent NPR report, also boosts the body’s production of nitric oxide. So the next time you want to get your blood flowing without breaking a sweat, just sit down, close your eyes, and chill out. You don’t have to twist your legs into a pretzel, chant a mantra, or strain your back. Research shows that simply relaxing in a comfortable chair while listening to inspiring classical music produces the same positive effects on vascular health as traditional Eastern-style meditation. In as little time as 20 minutes, you can feel like a new person, ready to make the most of a season that’s often called nature’s “second spring.”